The standard tip for most services in the US is 15%. Love it or hate it, tipping is how many people earn their living, and it is here to stay. Most people I know have no problem with leaving tips, but I’ve noticed a lot of people have trouble determining how much they should leave.
Some people pull out a pen and paper and work it out to the penny, and others always leave the same amount, regardless of the bill. I also know a guy who carries around a tip cheat sheet in his wallet, but as you can tell from the contents of my wallet, I don’t like to carry around unnecessary items.
How much should you tip?
Instead of figuring out the tip to the penny, try these simple tricks to quickly and painlessly calculate your tips:
Divide by 6. My favorite tip trick to determine how much to leave is to divide the final bill by 6, which comes out to 16.67%. Sure, it’s a little higher than the standard 15%, but it’s also much easier to figure out. Dividing by 7 (14.3%) and rounding up accomplishes the same thing.
If the service is great I will usually tip 20%, which is easily determined by dividing the final bill by 5. If the service is adequate, but not great, I might divide 8, which is 12.5%, or 10, which is 10%. Even then, I usually round up to the nearest dollar because I don’t like carrying around change.
Divide by 10 and add half again. Another quick way to get exactly 15% is to divide a number by 10, then add half that number.
Example: Let’s try this out on an odd number… How much would you tip on a $27 bill? If you want to pay exactly 15% of $27, you will pay $4.05. Check out how close you get by using the tips above:
- Divide by 5 (20%): $27 ÷ 5 = $5.40
- Divide by 6 (16.7%): $27 ÷ 6 = $4.50
- Divide by 7 (14.3%): $27 ÷ 7 = $3.86
- Divide by 8 (12.25%): $27 ÷ 8 = $3.38
- Divide by 10 (10%): $27 ÷ 10 = $2.70 (add half again and you have $4.05)
As you can see, all of these are easy to remember, easy to perform, and get you pretty close to the target number of 15%, or higher or lower depending on how good or bad the service was.
Here are some other tipping ideas:
Tipping rules of thumb. I generally tip at least $1 regardless of the bill, even if it is only a $0.99 cup of coffee. I might tip more if I sit at the table for a long time because by occupying the table I am taking away other potential tips.
Another guideline is to tip a waiter or waitress 15 percent for good service, 20 percent for exceptional service and no less than 10 percent for poor service. Even though you might want to skip out on the tip for poor service, you may be hurting others because in many restaurants waitstaff share tips with busboys, bartenders, and hostesses.
Double the tax, then round up. Tax in many locations is roughly 6-7%. Doubling the tip and rounding up to the nearest dollar often gets you very close to 15%. (This works better on smaller bills).
Tipping at a bar. I often tip $1 per drink. If you want prompt service, make your first tip of the evening a good one, then follow that up with regular tips per drink after that. If you open a tab, it’s a good idea to make your first tip with cash to get the bartender’s attention, ensuring prompt service for the rest of the evening.
Casinos. Casino dealers don’t earn much per hour from the casino, but often earn quite a bit from tips. It is considered good form to give them a small tip when you win a big hand or whenever there is a dealer change. Many dealers also don’t mind if you tip them by placing a bet for them (often on the sucker bets).
Tipping on a cruise. Last year, my wife and I went on a cruise for our honeymoon. We had a great time, and thankfully were prepared for the tips. Expect to pay around $6-10 per person, per day, with optional tips as you go.
No tip. I don’t recommend stiffing your waiter because, as mentioned earlier, tips are often shared. But if you feel inclined to skip the tip anyway, do it the right way. If you are paying with a credit card, don’t write $0.00. It’s too easy for the waiter (or someone else) to change the numbers to give himself a nice tip. Instead, write NO TIP on the line. There is no way to easily change that. Also consider speaking with the restaurant manager. If the service is that poor, the manager will want to know.
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Do you have any tip tricks or advice to share?
Note about tipping in the US and Canada: Many of the comments left on this article discuss tipping practices in the US and in Canada. There is a big difference because waitstaff in Canada receive a minimum wage for their service, plus tips. Most waitstaff in the US receive a reduced minimum wage (typically half) and their tips are supposed to make up the difference.